I have decided to make this advice to the reader thing a weekly post. I have been making the post on Sundays, but Steve Jobs passed away yesterday and I felt compelled to say a little something about him, and hopefully use his passing as a warning to my readers. A warning that is completely unrelated to writing and reading.
First off, I am not an Apple Fan Boy. If anything, I am a Windows Fan Boy. I don’t care for Apple’s closed architecture. I generally prefer being able to mess around under the hood of my computer products, and that is one thing Apple products won’t let you do. By the same token, I don’t begrudge Apple and their market share. I’m glad they release such simple products so my family members can get online from time to time.
Second, even though I aspire to be a Sci-Fi/Fantasy writer, I do have training as a mathematician and a scientist. Sadly, even people who manage to get their PhD’s often don’t get proper training as scientists, so don’t feel that just because someone went to school long enough to earn one, they must know how the scientific method works.
Third: Sadly, in a capitalist society, you should always be skeptical of claims made by so-called scientists or in the context of this post, health practitioners. Unfortunately, their goal may not be your best interests. I know it is a lot of work, but for important matters, especially when your health is involved, you should hear arguments from all sides of whatever topic is under discussion and weigh the evidence appropriately.
Now that I have that long set-up out of the way, what is it I am going to talk about? Well, it is something I would talk about to my statistics students when I used to teach (naturally in the context of statistics which I won’t do here). Alas, when speaking of health matters to 18-21 year old college students, you are generally wasting your breath. They are still indestructible and will live forever. Nevertheless, I gave it my best shot.
Cancer is a fickle beast and we speak about it as though it were one disease that can attack different parts of the body. The reality is that it is a classification of diseases. There are many types of cancer. Some have proven to be more treatable than others and over the last hundred years, science has made little baby step after little baby step towards various methods of attacking the cancer. I said I wasn’t going to get into the statistics, but when it comes to cancer cures, they generally read something like: XX% of people will live ten years or more after such and such treatments. YY% will live 20 years, and so on.
Unfortunately, this is not the sort of thing people like to hear. It’s not what Steve Jobs wanted to hear. Rather than treating his pancreatic cancer with modern medicine, he listened to an alternative medicine promoter, Dr. Dean Ornish, who convinced him that he could treat his cancer with a vegetarian diet. Now, there is nothing wrong with a vegetarian diet for healthy people, but it is not going to cure your cancer. There is no scientific evidence that diet will cure any form of cancer. Please read those words again: There is no scientific evidence that diet will cure any form of cancer.
Alas, there are all kinds of so called alternative medicines out there. Many of them even openly state that they rely on the “placebo effect” as part of the cure. Unfortunately, many people misunderstand the placebo effect. First, like cancer, there are numerous forms of the placebo effect. Second, a placebo effect generally relies on focusing the mind on something else while the body figures out its own cure. That’s why there is no placebo effect for cancer.
Cancer, in a simple nut shell, are cells from your own body growing out of control. This can happen in different ways, hence different forms of cancer. Your body doesn’t generally view itself as an invader, and that’s why the immune system doesn’t attack the cancer. Focusing the mind on something else, i.e. triggering some sort of placebo effect, is not going to change the fact that your body isn’t going to attack something it views to be a part of itself. You have to be, must be, proactive in your cancer treatments.
Steve jobs found his pancreatic cancer early. Apparently, his odds were good at that stage of living 10 years or more, if he started treatment right away. After trying for nine months to cure the cancer with a special diet and finally figuring out that it wasn’t going to help, his chances plummeted and as we can see, he didn’t even last close to ten years. I agree this is all a “statistic thing” and there is no guarantee he would be alive now had he gone through the recommended scientific based treatments, but his odds were definitely better. In terms of cancer, that’s all we can ask.
So what’s my advice to the reader? When it comes to your health. Get as much information as possible. If something sounds too easy, or too good to be true, it probably is. We all live by that sort of maxim when it comes to business. Why would you abandon such sound advice when it comes to your life?